Thursday, January 31, 2008

Crafting your elevator pitch: what are you promoting?

So, if you're anything like millions of entrepreneurs, you didn't just quit the day job and rush headlong into running your fledgling enterprise. In fact, you might even have a day job right now that pays the bills while you build your business (carefully, at night, and not on company time, RIGHT???). But what happens when you go to a networking event, and people ask what you do? Do you start off with "well, at my day job I wait tables, but really what I do is act and dance?" Or do you say, "actually, I'm an actor. I just finished doing Schindler's List: the Musical off-off-off-Broadway, and now I'm looking for the next great opportunity?"

Okay, well, neither of those things is probably true for you - but still the question remains: do you need to mention your "day job" to potential networking colleagues, or do you stick with what you want to be doing?

Networking maven Ilise Benun mentioned in a recent post, after mentioning that some folks felt compelled to talk about their day job:

You don't have to tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth." While I am absolutely not advocating deception, I do suggest you carefully construct (with marketing in mind) an answer that will lead you in the direction you're headed, and answer that will help you build your part time or freelance business into something more substantial, if that's what you want.

and I agree with her assessment. But I'll also add that in every networking (and even every employment) situation, it's important to remember what you WANT to be doing before you answer the question "what do you do?" Because ultimately, what you SAY you do will always be what you end up getting more of.

Case in point: back in 2002, I was going to school for web design while making money as a) a registrar for the Girl Scouts, b) a busser at a restaurant, and c) a sexual health activist for a local nonprofit (it was a LONG YEAR.) At the time, my resumé was very focused on what I "did" at the time, which was administrative work - and guess what I ended up getting? Administrative work. I didn't want administrative work. I wanted design work.

So, in 2003, I decided to completely redo my resumé, and take out any reference to administrative work - instead, I focused on the 3+ years I had spent doing freelance design on the side, and the work I was doing as a prepress artist and designer for a local printer (and had done for local printers before that). As a result, I haven't done a lick of administration work (outside the work I have to do for the zen kitchen, that is) since 2003.

Was it lying to omit the administrative work from my resumé? Not at all. That work wasn't who I was, and it wasn't who I wanted to be - all omitting it did was put me in a position where I could assert what I was - a designer - and put that information in front of the people who could help me succeed in that.

So the next time you're at a meeting and feel compelled to talk about your day job when someone asks, "what do you do?" don't be afraid to say "I'm a designer," or "I run a business that makes hats for dogs," or whatever it is that you really want to do.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Whole Foods to Stop Offering Plastic Bags

A friend of mine forwarded me this article by the New York Times which indicates that Whole Foods (where I just picked up some stuff today, in fact) will stop offering plastic bags to their customers by Earth Day, April 22, 2008.

From the article:

The Whole Foods Market chain said Tuesday that it would stop offering plastic grocery bags, giving customers instead a choice between recycled paper or reusable bags.

A rising number of governments and retailers are banning plastic bags, or discouraging their use, because of concerns about their environmental impact. San Francisco banned plastic bags last year unless they are of a type that breaks down easily. China announced a crackdown on plastic bags a few weeks ago, while other governments, including New York City’s, are making sure retailers offer plastic bag recycling.

The rest of the article is here.

For me, this is great news. Plastic bags are notoriously difficult to recycle, and although many supermarkets will take them back for recycling, not enough communities actually have recycling facilities for these types of bags, which means that many of them (despite our best intentions) don't actually GET recycled. So go Whole Foods!

I just hope that this will entice people to bring their own bags more often.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Networking: Morning or Evening?

This morning on the Marketing Mix Blog, self-promo rock star Ilise Benun posed the question: do early risers make better networkers? In her experience, Ilise seems to prefer morning events, but will they work for everyone?

I think it all depends on how you work. In my first year promoting the zen kitchen, I tried a number of different types of events, and I found the few morning events I got to quite unproductive, for a couple of reasons. For one, the time it takes to actually get ready and head down to a 7am networking event would literally have me up sometime around 4:30-5am, given the long commute into Boston via public transit, and that just didn't work for me. I'd show up with hair still wet and making a beeline for the coffee and breakfast, and while I did meet a couple of folks, they were almost never folks that I kept in touch with.

And since so much of my work is with entrepreneurs (literally 80% of my business at this point, and I'm happy with that), the folks I found at the morning meetings were mostly folks that were in the area anyway, which in most areas of Boston means mostly corporate types and folks in the financial industry.

In general, your first year of attending events is really an evaluation period to find out what types of events work for you - try a bit of each of them, and stick with the ones where you enjoy the people you meet there, you feel focused and confident, and you get out of them what you intend to. For me, it's lunch/dinner events where you actually sit down and talk to people, and where there's a good mix of people but it's not an enormous crowd. Cocktail events don't work for me, and I despise crowded events. You might find that a different mix works for you. That's the beauty of so many options - you can pick and choose the mix that works.

So, what are your favorite types of events?

Monday, January 07, 2008

tzk news: Marketing on a Shoestring class

Just a quick note to mention that, on January 25th, 2008, I'm going to be teaching a class in Marketing on a Shoestring for the Center for Women and Enterprise in Providence. As it's a subject close to my heart, the class will likely turn into a series of blog posts and/or an e-book somewhere down the line. For now, though, I'll let you know how things go. Ta!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Some Marketing Resolutions to help you build your business in 2008

My friend Jess Sand over at Roughstock Studios posted a terrific list on her blog about marketing resolutions that you can make to help you grow your business. It's a great list, and even if you implement just a few of them this year (along with the right professional to help, in some cases), you can see pretty tremendous results.

For the zen kitchen, I've been taking a lot of downtime the last couple of weeks to figure out and redefine Who I Am, What I Do, and Why People Care - and it's been an interesting experience. Impending New Years are great times to sit down and evaluate; what works and what needs to be dropped, which direction needs to take precedence now.

Given that, I thought I'd share my goals/focus for 2008:

  1. Spend more time on the blog, and on writing in general, including a personal book project in development;
  2. Have more focused content on the blog, especially in the area of self-promotion and branding;
  3. Focus the zen kitchen's work on branding and helping entrepreneurs learn how to promote themselves, a focus that's been a long time in coming;
  4. Clarify and document systems that I've developed within the business, so I can delegate work as needed.

I'm pretty excited about this, since I've come a long way since I opened the studio back in 2005, and this new focus is the first time since I started the studio that things just felt like they were clicking into place. Let me know what your resolutions are - any goals you want to achieve by year's end?